13 August 2011

Africa: India Tackles Peacekeepers' Rights

Future peacekeeping missions will be undertaken after thorough consultations between the UN Security Council and troop-contributing countries, if India's proposal for improved peacekeeping gets the council's nod.

In addition, India proposes sufficient provision of resources to enable troops to fulfil their mandate.

African states will most likely welcome the proposals. First, because they are among the top troop-contributing countries and, second, the continent is grappling with the issue of Somalia where countries have been reluctant to send peacekeepers, partly because the UN continues to keep the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) at arm's length.

Thematic debate

India, the council president for August, picked peacekeeping as its thematic debate.

And, from August 26, council members will take part in the first peacekeeping debate in 2011 and are expected to focus on the concerns of troop-contributing countries, according to the Security Council Report's "What's In Blue" segment.

"What's In Blue" is a series of insights contained in the Security Council Report on evolving Security Council actions. When the Security Council approaches the final stage of negotiation on a draft resolution, the text is printed in blue.

On August 8, India circulated a concept paper titled "Peacekeeping: Taking stock and preparing for the future".

Among the issues highlighted in the concept paper are government consent and its implications for state sovereignty, and the mismatch between resources and mandates of peacekeeping operations.

The paper focuses on peacekeeping as a partnership between the council, the General Assembly and the troop-and-police-contributing countries (TCCs/PCCs). It particularly stresses the importance of improving the consultation process between TCCs/PCCs and the council.

Retired diplomat and executive director of Africa Peace Forum Ochieng' Adala says although consultations are undertaken, they are usually hurried to respond quickly to emergencies.

"The UN does not have a standing force. It sources troops from member states, meaning member states have to volunteer them," he said.

However, developing nations tend to participate in peacekeeping more than developed countries.

For instance, the 10 main troop-contributing countries to UN peacekeeping operations as of September 2010 are Bangladesh (10,736), Pakistan (10,691), India (8,935), Nigeria (5,709), Egypt (5,458), Nepal (5,044), Jordan (3,826), Ghana (3,647), Rwanda (3,635) and Uruguay (2,489).As of March 2008, 113 countries were contributing a total 88,862 military observers, police and troops.

By December 2009, there were 844 Kenyan men and women serving in three missions - DRC, Chad and Sudan.

The first deployment of Kenyan troops took place in 1979 to Chad under the auspices of the then Organisation of African Unity and, since then, the country has committed more than 14,000 soldiers to peace missions.

Growing reluctance

But there has been a growing reluctance by states to contribute troops to UN peacekeeping missions; India's proposal suggests inadequate consultations and information-sharing with TCCs could be the reason.

"It seems that the draft presidential statement brings together a range of generic peacekeeping topics which have been discussed and agreed on in the past. It appears that one new element may be a practical suggestion for improving communication between the Council and the TCCs," the report said.

Mr Adala says in many cases the response from the UN to emergencies comes after a lot of delay, resulting in hurriedly assembled forces that sometimes fail to implement their mandate.

"It is all politics, but my prayer is that these political considerations never be allowed to take precedence over human life," he said.

UN resources set aside for peacekeeping operations have also been strained as conflict after conflict emerges.

Reimbursement by the UN for troop-contributing countries per peacekeeper per month includes: $1,028 (Sh95,810) for pay and allowances; $303 supplementary pay for specialists (Sh28,240); $68 (Sh6,338) for personal clothing, gear and equipment; and $5 (Sh466) for personal weaponry.

However, as was the case in pre-genocide Rwanda, the funds are sometimes not forthcoming.

Another partnership advocated is that between UN peacekeepers and regional organisations like the African Union, and the need to help these organisations build capacity.

The UN Charter stipulates that to assist in maintaining peace and security around the world, all member states of the UN should make available to the Security Council necessary armed forces and facilities.

But that has not been the case, especially in Somalia where only Uganda and Burundi are contributing troops to Amisom. As a result, the two countries have become targets of the Somali militant group al Shabaab.

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